The US abortion rate has hit a 30-year low. Research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute suggests the number of abortions dropped 13 percent between 2008 and 2011. The trend is not surprising as the numbers have steadily declined since 1981. However, the cause for decline is a topic of debate.
In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States’ landmark decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide. Following the decision, the rate of legal abortions in the US was around 16.3 percent. By 1980, the rate rose to just over 29 percent.
In 1981, the numbers began to decline. Thirty years later, the US abortion rate has dropped to 16.9 percent. Although causation was not part of the study, the researchers suggest readily available and effective birth control has contributed to the decline. The researchers also noted that safe and effective long-term birth control, including intra-uterine devices, may have made an impact.
As reported by the Washington Times, financial difficulty may have prompted many couples to be more vigilant about using birth control. Researchers said the economic factor should not be overlooked.
Senior researcher Rachel K. Jones said the numbers are promising. However, it cannot be assumed that the decline is “due to positive factors.” In some states, the abortion rate may have declined due to more restrictive laws.
Pro-life activists acknowledge the marked decline. However, they argue that the US abortion rate has dropped for moral reasons. Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yost said pro-life campaigns and new state laws led to the decline:
“This is a post-sonogram generation… There is increased awareness throughout our culture of the moral weight of the unborn baby. And that’s a good thing.”
The research also showed an increase in the use of abortion pills, which can be taken within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute concluded that one out of four abortions performed outside a hospital facility included the abortion pill. Fox News reports general use of the medication increased from 17 percent in 2008 to around 23 percent in 2011.
Although most states showed a decline in their abortion rate, the numbers in Alaska, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Wyoming, were unchanged. Researchers did not explore the lack of change in those six states.
While it is clear the abortion debate is far from over, research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute confirms similar studies conducted by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the actual reason is unknown, the US abortion rate continues to decline.